The Fresh Loaf

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Crust problems with my mini-baguettes

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nextguy's picture

Crust problems with my mini-baguettes

Hi all,

I am a new member but a longtime reader.  I have been making my own bread now for several years.  Only recently have I started being more scientific about my technique and ingredients and this weekend I tried a 75% hydration recipe consisting of the following poolish that I let ferment on my countertop overnight (ended up being exactly 9 hours):

  • 100g rye flour

  • 50g all purpose flour

  • 375g water

  • 1pinch sugar

  • 1tsp yeast

The poolish was more wet than I had originally planned.  To be quite honest, I intended to only put 150g of water but I had a brain freeze and put in 375g.  The next morning though the poolish looked very active and smelled yeasty.  I added the poolish to a bowl of this:

  • 200g stone ground sifted flour

  • 200g all purpose flour

  • 37.5g water

  • 2tsp salt (dissolved in the water)

I then mixed ingredients with a mixer until just incorporated and then stretch and pulled the dough by hand until the gluten formed nicely.  I then folded into 4ths, let rest for 20 minutes, and then folded into 4ths 2 more times every 20 minutes.  Into the fridge it went for exactly 22 hours.

The next day I cut the dough into 75g chunks, shaped into balls and let rest for 45 minutes on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Next I shaped the balls into baguettes by flattening the balls, folding the top and bottom to the center, flattening lightly, and repeating.  I then folded in two and cinched the ends shut.  The final baguettes were about 4 inches long.  I proofed these on the counter on a floured napkin for 45 minutes.  My kitchen is about 23 degrees.  The recipe yielded 12 minis with two weighing 65g.

After the proof, I scored each baguette 3 times on the top 3rd overlapping each score halfway.  In retrospect, I think I didn't score deeply enough as I cut maybe only a few millimeters straight down.  I then slid the baguettes onto an oven stone that was on a rack about 1/3 from the bottom of the oven which was preheating for 45 minutes at 480F.  I also sprayed water on the sides of the oven every few minutes.  Here is the problem.  I only cook my bread until it reaches 200F which took only about 15 minutes (I wasn't timing precisely at this point for some reason).  The crust on my baguettes was very soft and about half of them burst.  Most of the bursting was on the side but some burst on top.  The seams from the folding, I should note, were on the bottom so I don't think these were the cause of bursting.  So my questions are how do I improve my crust (I am looking for a really crisp crust) without overcooking the crumb and how can I avoid the bursting?  Next time I will try cooking the bread on the rack 1/3 from the top of the oven which might help make the crust more crispy.  For the bursting, I am guessing this was caused by inadequate steam or could it be due to my folding technique?

In any case, the bread tasted great.  The center of the baguettes was very strong from the folding and the crumb was light and flavorful. 


Syd's picture

I would guess that the bursting was because they were underproofed.  I proof my baguettes (about 270g a piece) for roughly 45 minutes at 26 degrees C.  So I would say 45 mins at 23 degrees is a bit short.  (Even though you only scaled yours at 70g).  Did they look proofed?

Secondly, when you are doing all that spraying at the beginning, are you opening the oven door each time?  Opening the oven door allows for a lot of heat to escape.  You would do better to place a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven and then just spray once before you load the oven.

Try baking in the middle of the oven as opposed to the bottom third.  There is a huge temp difference between the top and the bottom of the oven.  I would be wary of baking right at the top (as I do for pizza) for fear of burning, but that is just because it would burn in my oven.  Your oven might be different.  Try the middle first and if that doesn't work, go higher. 

If the crust is not crisp enough, turn the oven off, crack the door open slightly and leave the baguettes in there for another 5 mins.  (Longer, if necessary).  80% hydration is a lot of water and it may be that you aren't driving enough of it off in the baking process.

nextguy's picture

Yes they did look and feel proofed.  This was my first experience with such a hydrated dough.  The oven spring is huge.  The baguettes probably doubled in volume. My old recipe which was probably about 50% hydration never had these challenges but they also were not as airy.    So my feeling is that the bursting is due to the hydration.  Maybe the crust forms before the oven spring completes.

Thank you for the tips.  I just purchased some volcanic rocks that I will put in a pan and fill with boiling water. 

hanseata's picture

I agree with Syd - the crust problem has something to do with the oven temperature.

I bake my Pains a l'Ancienne at 475 F, the oven is preheated to 550 F. I steam with 1/2 cup boiling water and rotate the pans after 9 minutes, remove the steam pan, and bake the baguettes for another 8 minutes. Then they are left in the switched-off oven with the door slightly ajar for 5 minutes more.

Though my baguettes are a bit larger, I think the temperature and procedure would be about the same for your a little smaller ones. I'm baking these for 3 years every week and tried different temperatures and times. These now work out nearly perfect for my oven - the last 5 minutes in the switched-off oven really boost the crust (Thanks, DonD and David for that tip!)

But another thing - as far as I know the internal temperature of the baguettes should be more than 200 F, between 205 and 210. Your breads are baked to just the lowest internal temperature level for a baguette.


nextguy's picture

I finished another batch this morning and I made the following modifications to my technique:

  • Put rocks in the oven and put boiling water on them right after sliding my baguettes onto the stone.  After 5 minutes I opened the door to let out any remaining steam.

  • Did 2 scores instead of 3 but cut deeper than last time.

  • When the internal temperature reached 200 I turned off the heat and left the door closed for 3 minutes.  I then opened the door for 3 more minutes.

This time the baguettes came out almost perfect.  Huge oven spring with airy but strong crumb.  Crust was much better and I guess as good as can get for such small baguettes. 

Thanks the tips!